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An immensely touching and cohesive fictional biography of the legendary sharpshooter (1860-1926): Heidish, as with Harriet Tubman (A Woman Called Moses) and Anne Hutchinson (Witnesses), builds from exemplary research to a fresh portrait of a talented woman in crisis. The secret of Annie Oakley (born Phoebe Ann Moses) is not revealed immediately, but her devoted husband Frank Butler leads off with the threat that prompts Annie's confessions--a 1903 newspaper libel case which, she fears, will bring investigations into her suppressed past. Frank tells of their years together, beginning at the famous Thanksgiving pigeon-shoot in Ohio when showman sharpshooter Frank loses to the ""small snippet of a girl"" at match point. Infatuated Frank marries Annie before her 16th birthday and before long they're ""Butler & Butler""--though soon she'll solo, with Frank as manager. Annie loves the traveling life, has no use for settling in a house and hints she knows of a ""house gone wrong."" Frank feels Annie's cryptic fears from odd clues: a dreaded face in the audience; the compulsive writing over and over of her maiden name; her sketches of gravestones; a cringing from beggars and poor children; her terror of performing in her home town. Still, there are the wonderful years on the road, with Buffalo Bill, Annie's adored Chief Sitting Bull, and the troupe--traveling in their own railroad cars (the ""smell of leather and urine and plush, swearing and guffawing, and the shuffle of cards""), wowing New York, London, Paris. But then there's a temporary break with Cody, and, after near-death from illness in a wintry Spain, Annie will tell Frank her cruel chidhood story. . .but not before a visit from her knife-lipped mother and shuddering home-town echoes. A class act--as Heidish reconstructs, with color and drama, the choreography of the shows, the tone of a period, and the textures of a haunting past.

Pub Date: April 19th, 1983
ISBN: 0983116407
Publisher: New American Library